Ed Driscoll

Video of NBC 'Tape Error' from their Jerry Sandusky Interview

Reuters reports that “Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky sought a mistrial before his conviction for child sex abuse on the grounds that prosecutors showed jurors an inaccurate version of a bombshell NBC News interview with the former football coach, and the mistake may now form part of the basis for an appeal”:

In response to a subpoena, NBC News turned over three versions of Bob Costas’ NBC News interview with Sandusky, which aired last November on different NBC shows.

One of those versions, which was broadcast on the ‘Today’ show, contained an erroneous repetition of a key question and answer – about whether Sandusky was sexually attracted to young boys, Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general said on Sunday.

The repetition, Sandusky’s lawyers contend, made it appear to jurors that he was stonewalling.

“It wasn’t noticed by (NBC News), it wasn’t noticed by us, but it became obvious when it played in court,” Frederiksen told Reuters.

NBC News spokeswoman Amy Lynn confirmed this account on Sunday.

Before going any further, let me repeat what Ace wrote here:

First — of course Jerry Sandusky is guilty.

That’s not the point here. The point is that the prosecutors relied upon NBC to provide an accurate edit of the Jerry Sandusky interview.

They were burned on that.

The Reuters article above links to a YouTube clip of the interview and notes:

In the Sandusky interview with NBC, Costas asks, “Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?” according to an NBC News transcript.

Sandusky responded, “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?”

But in the “Today” version, which was played for jurors and is still available on YouTube (here), the exchange was repeated.

The interview was originally aired correctly on NBC News’ new magazine show, ‘Rock Center’ on November 14. The erroneous version that repeated the exchange aired the following morning on ‘Today.’

In a statement, NBC’s Lynn said: “Under subpoena, NBC News turned over three versions of the Costas interview to prosecutors, including the ‘Today’ version with the error in it. Prosecutors used the ‘Today’ version, not realizing it included a technical glitch, and played it for the jury.

“After court that day, NBC News executives had a series of discussion with the prosecutors, and after some internal investigation were able to determine that the glitch originated on ‘Today.’ NBC News executives explained the situation to the court, and Judge Cleland sought to remedy the situation by giving the jury instructions to regard only a transcript of the full interview that was subsequently provided to them, not any audio that was played for them by prosecutors.”

Here’s the video that Reuters links to, preceded by the logo of the person who uploaded the clip to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb49dXT_44M

If you missed the interview when it originally aired in November, it is uber-creepy. I felt like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now listening to Col. Kurtz’s radio transmissions. I kept waiting for Sandusky to tell Bob Costas, “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.”

If you don’t want listen to the whole vile thing, click to about 6:40 into the video for the repeat of Sandusky’s comments, or just keep reading, as I’ve created a separate clip to focus in on the material discussed by Reuters, which appears at the top of the next page. Watching it, there’s a weird flash-frame where Bob Costas’ question to Sandusky repeats. I was curious about what the heck was in that frame, so I placed my downloaded copy of the video into a timeline in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS6 video editing program to freeze-frame it:

At the risk of going full Zapruder, I believe what it might be is a shot of the Today Show control room or some other unlit portion of the set, with a couple of technicians in the background, and someone’s coat on a coat-rack in front of them. I’m calling it a flash-frame, but it lasts a total of six frames in the Premiere timeline. That’s much less than one second. Given that the animated Today Show lower third plays through the flash-frame, I assume that’s why NBC was so quick to determine the incident happened on their end, and wasn’t something a mischievous video clipper inserted, when he uploaded the interview to YouTube. (Update: This minor mystery solved? See update with comment from reader at end of post.)

OK, now I’m going full Zapruder. Here’s the flash-frame in question, in real time, slow-motion, and then in freeze-frame at the end:

[flashvideo file=http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2012/06/nbc_today_show_bob_costas_sandusky_interview_11-2011_6-25-12.flv image=http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2012/06/nbc_today_show_bob_costas_sandusky_interview_11-2011_6-25-12_title_card_rev_1.jpg /]

The flash-frame occurs 48 seconds into the above clip; I’m including the portion of the interview that led up to it, because it reflects on another incident involving the above clip that was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times a week ago. As Reuters noted above, “In response to a subpoena, NBC News turned over three versions of Bob Costas’ NBC News interview with Sandusky, which aired last November on different NBC shows.” Here’s what was deleted from one of those interviews:

A Pennsylvania prosecutor contacted an NBC News lawyer on Friday, and asked the network to re-authenticate the full unedited transcript of the interview, which aired on “Rock Center with Brian Williams,’’ and was conducted by NBC Sports host Bob Costas. The hope? Further damning evidence.

In the unaired portions, Costas called Sandusky out for using his charity for troubled youth, The Second Mile, as a way of luring alleged victims in.

Sandusky told Costas: “… I have worked with many, many young people where there has been no misinterpretation of my actions and I have made a very significant difference in their lives.’’

Costas responded by challenging Joe Paterno’s one-time coordinator, “But isn’t what you’re just describing the classic MO of many pedophiles? And that is that they gain the trust of young people, they don’t necessarily abuse every young person. … So it’s entirely possible that you could’ve helped young boy A in some way that was not objectionable while horribly taking advantage of young boy B, C, D and E. Isn’t that possible?’’

Then came the sound bite NBC should have aired on every television set around the country as soon it was muttered from Sandusky’s mouth.

“Well — you might think that,’’ Sandusky said. “I don’t know. In terms of — my relationship with so many, many young people. I would — I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward. Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and — and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life. And I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped. There are many that I didn’t have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways.’’

Instead, they sat on it.

An NBC news executive emailed me the explanation as, “There were a lot of compelling comments in the original interview, but we did not have time to include them all.’’

But it did air the following morning on the Today Show back in November. As you can see at the start of the above clip I put together, it led directly to the flash-frame jump cut. Eric Deggans of the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Website linked to the Chicago Sun-Times piece last week and noticed the same thing:

NBC’s response to me echoed what they have said to other media outlets, with spokeswoman Amy Lynn emailing, “As you may have heard, there were a lot of compelling comments in the original interview but we did not have time to include them all.  However, you can expect to hear more about the Sandusky case this Thursday on Rock Center with Brian Williams at 10p/9c.”

This has surged back into the news because NBC itself reported Monday that prosecutors had asked to verify the transcript of the interview – an indication they may have considered introducing it into the trial, perhaps as a way to rebut testimony from Sandusky, who never wound up testifying before his defense rested today.

With due respect, the “we didn’t have time” excuse just doesn’t wash. Costas’ interview, originally conducted for anchor Brian Williams’ newsmagazine Rock Center, made national news for weeks and was replayed on other NBC News outlets such as the Today show.

(UPDATE: NBC didn’t reveal this, but after the original version of this column was published, I discovered the above Sandusky quote did air on the Today show the next morning. Still, it didn’t seem to earn the attention that the original Rock Center interview quotes received.)

Frankly, I’m surprised NBC didn’t cobble together its full 48-minute interview into a larger special, complete with backstory and compelling theme music.

Perhaps they figured such a quote would look too much like piling on. Right after the unaired quote, Sandusky delivered the responses that seemed disastrous to the public when broadcast, hesitating when asked if he was sexually attracted to young boys before noting, “I enjoy young people – I love to be around them, I – I – but not, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”

Presumably, we’ll hear more about this on Thursday, when closing arguments in Sandusky’s trial begins and the ratings-challenged Rock Center can try for another bite at the public attention apple.

With NBC’s news credibility rapidly imploding, good luck with that. The editing incident involving the Sandusky interview occurred in November, and preceded their admitted deceptive edits of George Zimmerman’s 911 call, and last week’s attempt to create a Bush supermarket scanner incident for Mitt Romney (which itself is now known as a false MSM-created narrative, as even the left-leaning Snopes Website admits).

Once again, here’s PJTV’s look at NBC’s edit of the Zimmerman 911 call, where, as I did above with the Sandusky interview, PJTV put NBC’s video onto the timeline of an editing program to make sense of what happened:

At Big Journalism, John Nolte asks a salient question: “How Many Deceptive NBC Edits Before Steve Capus Is Fired?” and responds, “Well, we know the answer isn’t five:”

Just last week, Andrea Mitchell was caught red-handed in an attempt to edit Romney into what could’ve been a defining gaffe (which you can bet was the whole idea).

Earlier this year, NBC’s once-legendary “Today Show” was caught editing a 911 tape to make the caller, alleged Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman, look racist.

In August of 2011, NBC’s Ed Schultz used  deceptive editing to make Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was running for president at the time, look racist.

In August of 2009, NBC’s Contessa Brewer was caught deceptively editing a piece of video to call the Tea Party racist, but only after she edited out the fact that the Tea Partier carrying  a sidearm was a black man.

If you look at the timeline here, you’ll see that the frequency of these fraudulent edits is increasing at a rapid rate. Which is probably no accident when you consider how close we are to voting Obama out of office.

In summation: NBC’s brand is in trouble, the man behind the decline just got his contract renewed, and the frequency of brand-tarnishing frauds is increasing.

Last week after Andrea Mitchell was caught cooking the books, Greg Kandra, a Roman Catholic deacon  with years of TV experience (and Emmy and Peabody awards), asked, “Memo to NBC: What the hell is wrong with you?”

At this point, perhaps an equally important question is, what can be done to repair the damage?

Of course, given that NBC News long ago wrote off half their potential audience, can they successfully repair their brand’s damage — at least in the foreseeable future?

Update: Thanks to a comment by an astute reader, the mystery image is solved:

Hi Ed! Go back to 5:34 in the long clip (0:01-0:03 in the short one) and you will see that the mystery frame is a blurred version of the picture of Sandusky entering court with his lawyers.

That makes sense — the image was blown up to fill the screen, and then NBC likely stuck a big swatch of Gaussian Blur-style filter on it to use as an abstract background image for the still photos in the clip. Now, how do we get to the bottom of the much larger questions: what’s happened to the network’s news division as a whole, and where does it go from here? When even Howard Kurtz can see it, you know you’ve got issues.